AFP Kanpur, India
Skipper Virat Kohli conceded yesterday that India must bat better against spin, as the favourites prepare to take on a dangerous New Zealand in the first Test in Kanpur.
Kohli pointed to India’s loss last year at the hands of Sri Lanka’s spinners on a raging turner as evidence of his side’s weakness, as they begin their quest to regain the number one world ranking spot. His team take on the Black Caps from today in the first of three Tests and India’s 500th in total, at Kanpur’s Green Park which is expected to prove favourable to spinners.
“It’s an area where we can improve, we have lost a Test match in Sri Lanka because we couldn’t play as well as we would have liked,” Kohli told reporters.
“The team wants to improve on that aspect of the game, (its) something that (we) surely need to get stronger. What has happened is that there was so much being built up about us not being able to play well away from home that we kept focusing on playing fast bowling, and we got really good at it.
“We countered conditions really well in England, in bursts, in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. We sort of didn’t pay that much attention to spin. Now we are putting in more effort, to face the spinners longer in nets and practicing small little things by ourselves – someone might sweep, someone might play off the backfoot – whatever it is. If you want to be a champion side, you don’t want to give the opposition any window to get into the game.” he said, adding that his batsmen were working on this.
Sri Lankan veteran spinner Rangana Herath claimed seven wickets to skittle India for 112 last August in a stunning victory, although India went on to win the next two matches. Kohli, known for his aggressive brand of cricket, said he was impressed with New Zealand’s “fearless” style of play in recent times and believes the visitors will prove tough opponents.
“I think Kane is leading the side very well. We expect very good competition and good hard-fought cricket,” Kohli said of his opposite number Kane Williamson. India, who start the series strong favourites after their recent 2-0 away victory against the West Indies, are also eyeing a return to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings.
India recently toppled Australia from the top of the rankings, only to be leapfrogged by their archrivals Pakistan. India’s spin king Ravichandran Ashwin is in form, picking up 17 wickets in the Caribbean, while batsmen Lokesh Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane have also been in good knick.
India will have an extended season that will comprise 17 Tests. It’s a daunting figure, and Kohli pointed to the coming season as one that could be ‘career-defining’ for the members of his team.
“I feel this season is a phase where we can lay a foundation as to where the Test team can go or Test cricket can go as far as India is concerned,” said Kohli.“We started off really well. This team is full of exciting players who are very talented, as we all know. The challenge for the last year or so has been to show composure in Test cricket and get the victories that are required. We have been able to do that. So the important thing is to continue the same.”
While emphasising that the team had the talent and skills in place, Kohli said his team had the self-belief to be the best in the world. “We believe we certainly have what it takes to be the best team in the world. We definitely believe that,” said Kohli. “One area we have tapped into is belief. It’s something that lot of young players can lack coming into international cricket – there can be a lot of insecurities, like ‘Whether I’ll play in the next game or whether my position is secure or not’. It’s all about getting them rid of that feeling.
“When you step on to the pitch, you need to tell yourself, ‘I own this position for the next 8-10 years in Test cricket for India.’ That’s the only way you can go out there, be confident and express how good you are. And that’s what this team has done. More often than not if you’re fearless, the results will fall your way because you’re willing to take that extra risk in the course of the game. I certainly feel that this team has what it takes to be the best.
“What it requires is sustained concentration, attention to detail, practicing the same way everyday… you know doing boring things. At this level you need to be boring if want to be successful, as simple as that. Your training, your practice, the way you prepare for games should not change.”
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